Gambling problems can arise during big betting time of March Madness

Gambling problems can arise during big betting time of March Madness

With March Madness set to get underway, workplaces and friend groups throughout the country will be filling out brackets, often with money at stake.

According to the American Gaming Association, 70 million brackets will be filled out and $10.7 billion will be spent on March Madness gambling in the United States.

Iain Duguay is just one of many in the Madison area joining a pool with friends — albeit with low stakes.

“(We’re betting) five bucks each,” Duguay said. “I have Villanova in one (bracket) and Kansas in the other.”

Rose Gruber, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling, said keeping it low is exactly what you should do if you choose to join an office pool for the NCAA Tournament.

“For most people, they can place their bet, it’s not going to be a problem, it’s fun, they can afford to lose whatever they’re betting on it,” Gruber said. “Our concern comes for the percent of the population that maybe has some kind of a gambling problem.”

Gruber said while most office pools keep things reasonable, March Madness can bring out problem gamblers.

“They will spend and spend and spend in the hopes of recouping any losses they may have had over the season,” Gruber said. “This is kind of a make or break it if they’re a sports bettor.”

Gruber said the key to keeping things under control during March Madness is to be responsible — never bet more than you’re willing to lose.

“Don’t take money that’s meant for the bills, or for the house payment, for any of those kinds of things,” Gruber said. “Usually people have fun with them. I say go for it, just know there are risks involved.”

Betting on sports is technically illegal in Wisconsin, but informal pools among co-workers or groups of friends still flourish here, as they do in other parts of the country.

Duguay said he sees March Madness pools as innocent fun.

“I don’t view this as anything different than buying a scratch-off lotto ticket, but this is way more entertaining to do,” Duguay said. “It’s kind of fun to trash talk a little bit even though I know I’m not going to win.”

Gruber said if you notice someone betting excessive amounts, focusing too much of their lives on sports gambling, or having difficulty paying bills because of gambling, they may have an issue.

Anyone with a gambling problem can call the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-GAMBLE-5.